There seems little point in reviewing Nilaja Sun's quite amazing performance of No Child. Everything that can be said about it has already been said. Basically, believe the hype and get a ticket, if the season has not already sold out.
But I have to write a review, so here goes... wait on. First up – how I found out about No Child.
I hadn't actually heard the hype. There was an offer to do a Q & A with someone called Nilaja Sun about her play called No Child, and I said yes simply because I wasn't doing anything at the time. Then I did some background reading and my mood drooped a little because the play seemed to be a comment on the American education system. Generally I'm not drawn to such serious issues. I prefer the fun stuff. But my mood went less droopy the more I read. Yes, it was drawn from a first hand account of the state of the American education system and the effects it was having on a young generation, but it appeared to be handled with lots of humour and a big heart. Also, there was a play within a play – the story is about a teacher who decides to put on a class production of Our Country's Good, a play in turn about British convicts in colonial Australia who put on a play. The themes of the plays dealt with giving the students/prisoners self respect and a sense of worth rather than oppressing and punishing them. It was about here that my mood went from droopy to positively turgid.
Then I read the reviews. Glowing one and all. Five stars flying about all over the place. Standing ovations everywhere. I really wanted to do this Q & A and I really wanted to see the show during the 2012 Melbourne Festival.
Alas, I missed the 2012 season. I wasn't quick enough and it sold out. Sad face.
Then in passing I saw that Nilaja was back in Australia with another season at Theatreworks in St Kilda. I moved with the speed of a Ninja and secured my tickets. Happy face. I was excited, and then apprehensive because when you get excited you are quite often disappointed; is the thing going to deliver the goods?
As for a review... basically all the reviews are trying to find different ways of saying the same thing. I could tell you that it's astonishing, passionate, amazing, heartfelt, hilarious, clever, moving and countless other superlatives, but they've all been used, and justly so. I could tell you that it deserves its five out of five rating as much as it does its standing ovation.
I probably should tell tell you, in case you've been on vacation on the moon that not only is Nilaja Sun a gifted writer but an exceptionally talented actor as well – and I don't doubt she would have been the kind of teacher the education system needs more of. She plays around 20 characters with no costume change, just small or large shifts in her physicality to denote character shift in what is a thoroughly spellbinding performance. (Thoroughly spellbinding... I don't think I've seen that description in a review. Punch the air. Yes!).
I usually feel a bit funny about standing ovations. They can be a bit like exclamation marks in their overuse. But if any performance is deserving of a standing ovation, it's this one!!
The only sense of disappointment concerning No Child is going to happen if you miss out on seeing it. It's that good.
Theatre Works presents
written and performed by Nilaja Sun
Directed by Hal Brooks
Venue: Theatre Works | 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates: 7 – 19 May, 2013
Tickets: $45 – $35
Bookings: theatreworks.org.au | (03) 9534 3388